English romance author Summers (Monday’s Child, not reviewed, etc.) fashions a pretty, triangulated saga around a young woman’s inheritance of a country cottage.
When Jasmine Wyatt’s employer Giles Devenish dies, inexplicably bequeathing to this 20-year-old secretary an overgrown cottage in the village of Horton, Jasmine leaps at the chance to escape the confines of her stuffy home in Bristol. Her mother having died in childbirth, Jasmine has been raised by her overbearing, censorious father, Owen, and her kindly, conventional older sister, Grace, as they work the family haberdashery shop in Bristol. Head-strong, impetuous Jasmine and her father lock horns constantly. The cottage, it turns out, is charmingly rustic, though bearing a curse since the previous tenants died in the house after eating poisoned mushrooms; moreover, someone has thrown red paint over the front door, as if to scare the new visitors. The fright is mitigated by the kindness of the estate agent, William Hedges, who shows Jasmine around the place. William, an attractive bachelor, gets Jasmine’s blood up when he takes jabs at her high-heeled city shoes and urbane condescension. William’s unmarried aunt, Mrs. Lester, is just about Owen’s age, and when Owen is persuaded to come stay in the cottage for health reasons, he finds he rather likes the elderly socials and country ways of the villagers. Back at the Bristol shop, Grace, shockingly, has been romancing the family doctor and plans to marry him and settle in Scotland, while Owen, who swore he would never get over his dear departed wife, is moving in on Mrs. Lester. It’s only fair in the end to offer our feisty heroine a chance to set down roots as well, and it happens in the form of a proffered job at the local day-care center and some heavy hints from William.
The element of mystery is unfortunately never developed here, but the romance is subtly handled, and the book is charming in its simplicity and clarity of plot.